The Welsh government has stepped in to save a landmark partnership agreement between councils and social care providers following a spate of rows over care fees.
Gwenda Thomas, deputy minister for social services, has called a meeting next week to save the 2009 memorandum of understanding between provider representatives and the Welsh Local Government Association and Association of Directors of Social Services Cymru. They agreed to work together to deliver sustainable services and resolve fee disputes in a co-operative manner. No other UK nation has an agreement of its kind.
But relations have soured due to a string of disputes over fees.
Pembrokeshire Council was forced to raise the fees it paid care home providers this year at a cost of nearly £1.5m after four homes won a judicial review against its decision to freeze fees in 2010-11.
However, the four homes and others have been granted the right to a second judicial review of the remade decision.
Community Care understands that at least two other councils in Wales are also being challenged by providers with applications for judicial reviews of decisions concerning fees.
The disputes have forced Thomas to step in to get the agreement “back on track”.
“The local authority fee setting and the way that providers are not happy about the way that works in some areas, combined with the pressure which is on providers is causing tension,” she told the annual WLGA and ADSS Cymru joint conference yesterday. “I believe the memorandum did stabilise the process and we need to get it back on track.”
She said she did not want public money being spent in the courts as a result of legal challenges.
However, Mario Kreft, chief executive of provider body Care Forum Wales, said increased numbers of providers were going into administration following local authority squeezes on fees and there were providers that felt they had no resolution to their financial woes other than the courts.
“Sadly, following the Pembrokeshire case there appears to be a re-entrenched position from local government that the independent sector is something to be tolerated not worked with,” he added.
“If we do not breathe life into the memorandum pretty soon it’s going to be a dead duck,” he said.
“The memorandum is at risk,” said Parry Davies, president of ADSS Cymru. “We don’t want to see a rift developing between us as commissioners and providers. We have to accept that we both have a common goal in providing services to those who rely on them.”
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